Task Force Report Criticizes Secure Communities

Protestors in Chicago. Sarah-ji/Flickr

A task force charged with making recommendations to improve the controversial Secure Communities program, released a critical draft report last week, saying that the Administration continued to create confusion about its enforcement priorities and underestimated the negative impact the program had on immigrant communities and community policing.

Their report now heads to the Homeland Security Advisory Council who will review and finalize the task force’s recommendations before sending it to ICE Director John Morton.

“ICE must recognize that it does not work in a vacuum and that its enforcement actions impact other agencies and the relationships with their communities in what some may conclude is a negative way,” task force members wrote in the report.

The report was released after members held public meetings in Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Arlington, VA last month. The emotionally-charged hearings had brought out many who shared personal stories and chanted for the end of the program. Participants also held walk-outs and protests. In Chicago, several demonstrators were arrested after staging a sit-in that blocked traffic.

The task force made several recommendations (click here to read the full report):

  • ICE must clarify the goals and objectives of the Secure Communities program, as well as the parameters and functioning of the program, and accurately relay this information to participating jurisdictions, future participating jurisdictions, and the communities they serve. Regardless of whether ICE has legal authority to operate Secure Communities without local agreement, ICE must work to develop good working relationships with states, cities, and communities.
  • ICE must improve the transparency of the program.
  • There is broad consensus in the nation that persons convicted of serious crimes who are in the United States illegally should be subject to deportation. ICE must build on that consensus by implementing systematic mechanisms to ensure that Secure Communities adheres to its stated enforcement objective of prioritizing those who pose a risk to public safety or national security.
  • ICE should clarify that civil immigration law violators and individuals who are convicted of or charged with misdemeanors or other minor offenses are not top enforcement priorities unless there are other indicia that they pose a serious risk to public safety or national security.
  • DHS must exercise its prosecutorial discretion, in all its immigration enforcement endeavors, in line with stated enforcement priorities, and take systematic steps to train and monitor field officers and attorneys as they implement Departmental policies on prosecutorial discretion.
  • DHS must strengthen accountability mechanisms, including remedies for and prevention of civil rights and civil liberties violations.

However, members could not come to a consensus on whether the program should be suspended until it is improved or terminated altogether.

The report also prompted the resignation of five members including Chris Crane and Monica Beamer of the American Federation of Government Employees and Andrea Zuniga DiBitetto of the AFL-CIO, who resigned because they felt the report did not reflect their concerns or recommendations. Arturo Venegas, a retired police chief of Sacramento and director of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative, also chose to resign because he felt the report fell short.

“At the Task Force hearing in Los Angeles, I heard testimony from a woman who was arrested for selling popsicles without a license and put into deportation proceedings through the Secure Communities program,” wrote Venegas in a letter to Task Force Chairman Chuck Wexler. “When I look at the recommendations in this report, I think about that woman and the wave of fear her arrest and pending deportation has caused in her community. Had the task force recommendations been in place at the time, I believe she would have had the exact same experience.”

A spokesman for the Administration said that President Obama will meet with those members who resigned.

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